Long Island Advance: A Spirited Gathering

Brian X. Foley

March 12, 2009

Foley opposes Governor’s wine and liquor law

By Linda Leuzzi

March 12, 2009

Kathryn Scinto-Cregg opened up Quench Wine and Spirits with her husband Dan on West Main Street in Patchogue last November. “We wanted to open a unique store that was outside of the box,” she said, glancing at the shelves that carried 270 different labels of wines from far-flung places like Argentina, Australia, Chile and New Zealand as well as France and Italy. “We’d just sold a cocktail lounge in Brooklyn on Smith Street, one of the areas on the cusp of change. It’s similar to what’s happening here.”

Scinto-Cregg handwrites legends and stories about a featured wine every week on her chalkboard. “For Valentine’s Day, she pulled out labels that had to do with romance,” said Christine King, a cousin who works in the store. King  lived in Germany when her husband was stationed there—he is now in Iraq—and traveled through Europe. She is familiar with many of the European wines.

With the revitalization of Patchogue Village, Scinto-Cregg hopes that her store will thrive. Her husband Dan recently joined the Patchogue Fire Department as a volunteer and they have immersed themselves in local life. But with Governor David A. Paterson’s proposed legislation to legalize the sale of wine in grocery stores, gas stations, delis, bodegas and anywhere beer is sold as a way to shore up the budget deficit, those dreams are on hold.

Friday, Senator Brian X. Foley (D - Blue Point) joined Scinto-Cregg at Quench along with other wine shop and vineyard owners, law enforcement officials, wine distributors and those fighting to reduce drunk driving incidents to oppose the governor’s legislation. “We’re here to protect our Main Streets and small business owners. Spirit shops are part of the communities here,” Foley said, looking around at the packed shop. “This will be a serious slip backwards. While it will bring in $100 to 150 million in revenue to the state (from new licensing fees), there will be long-time consequences. The last unemployment figure nationally is that another 651,000 lost their jobs just in February alone. The last thing we need to do is pass legislation that would cause more unemployment and more stores to close.”

As Foley spoke, signs were held up that said, “4,000 Lost Jobs” and “Safety Over Greed.”

“It would affect 4,000 people who would lose their jobs, and 1,000 businesses would close,” Foley reiterated.

According to Ibrahim Khan, Foley’s chief of staff, the governor’s proposed legislation, one that has been simmering over the last 20 years under different administrations, was a particular hot-button issue with constituents. “This issue was the single first one presented to Brian when he took office as Senator,” explained Ibrahim Khan, Foley’s chief of staff, before the press conference. “We have people here who called and called. According to the state liquor authority, 90 percent of violations of the liquor sold to underage drinkers take place in large supermarkets. When Brian comes out against it, we hope others will follow. We’re not against the governor, just against this policy.”

In Florida, California and Texas, where wine is sold everywhere, Foley stated, the number of fatalities per 100,000 is more than double than New York state. Marge Lee, president of DEDICATEDD (Drive Educated Drive Informed And Totally End Drunk Driving) who joined Foley at the podium, pointed out that private store owners can see who’s in the store and stop those who are not of legal age from getting wine or liquor. “We can’t sacrifice our citizens to close a budget gap,” she said.

While Suffolk County Legislator Jack Eddington (WF-Medford), Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington (WF-Medford), Assemblyman Phil Boyle (R - Bay Shore), Fred Sales of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association, and others like Jeff Saunders, president of the Retail Alliance Association and a representative for Last Store on Main Street, a coalition of thousands of small business owners, spoke out in opposition to the governor’s proposed legislation, Foley said there was an even-handed intense fight for

and against the law. “There are vine- yards in the Finger Lakes region who’ve said it will help their businesses,” Foley said frankly.

But it wouldn’t help vineyards and wine shops on Long Island and throughout New York City. Scott Romond, son of Osprey Dominion Vineyard’s co-owner Bud Koehler, said their winery had between 80 and 100 accounts. Of those who carried their wines, most were in Suffolk County, 20 shops carried their wine in Nassau and about five were in New York City. “If the small stores go under, I don’t believe we’ll be able to market our wine,” said Romond, who traveled in from Peconic. “We don’t produce enough, for one thing, and I don’t feel a grocery store clerk can hand sell my wine, and we’ll lose.” Romond represented the 26 vineyard owners as well as Louisa Hargrave, who started the Long Island vineyard phenomenon now at Stony Brook Center for Wine, Food and Culture, who oppose the Governor’s plan. “There were a lot of bankrupt farmers out here and now the North Fork is thriving,” he said of the wineries that took their place.

Mike Douglas, owner of Post Wine and Spirits in Syosset, a 43-year institution, drove in from Nassau County for the press conference. “What Brian said about it being part of the community is really important,” said Douglas, whose business has existed in the same location. “I probably have trained at least 20 kids who stayed in the wine business.”

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